In a key decision protecting contractors’ data rights, the Court of Federal Claims recently affirmed that “technical data” is limited in scope and includes only information “of a scientific or technical nature,” under DFARS. Raytheon Co. vs. United StatesNo. 19-883C, 2022 WL 2353085 (Federal Cl. June 15, 2022).
Under DFARS 252.227-7013, if data is identified as “technical data,” the government may be able to assert licensing rights in a contractor’s non-commercial technical data. See DFARS 252.227-7013(b). In contrast, for data identified as proprietary non-technical data, the government cannot claim license rights to the proprietary non-technical data.
In this case, it was clarified whether a contractor can treat supplier list information as proprietary, non-technical data. in the RaytheonRaytheon was required to provide quarterly supplier lists to the Army. ID. at 3. These supplier lists contained information about suppliers from whom Raytheon purchased its missile system parts. ID. Raytheon has marked this list of providers with a label stating that the information contained therein is protected by copyright. ID. at 4. The Army objected to Raytheon’s proprietary markings and directed Raytheon to remove language that restricts the use of information from its supplier list because the supplier lists contained technical data that the government requires the use of according to DFARS 252.227-7013 (a)(15) was entitled. ID. at *4-5.
Raytheon filed a lawsuit challenging the government’s actions as an improper attempt to acquire rights to its proprietary information. In its ruling, the court reviewed the definition of “technical data” as given in the DFARS, noting that technical data includes only “recorded information” in that language’s plain meaning. . . of a scientific or technical nature.” ID. at 9. In applying this definition to the supplier lists, the court agreed with Raytheon, ruling that the supplier lists contain “no information relating to the design, manufacture, or assembly of parts” but essentially contain a “quarterly purchase history” of the suppliers from whom Raytheon has sourced its missile system parts, the supplier lists do not contain information that is “inherently or essentially technical in nature”. ID. at 9. Therefore, the Vendor Listings cannot be considered “Technical Data” under DFARS 252.227-7013(a)(15). ID.
Contractors will find this case a useful reference when confronting and pushing back similar cases of exceedance due to an overly broad definition of “technical data”. This case has again underscored the fact that contractors are allowed to protect their proprietary non-technical data and the government cannot use the data rights clauses to acquire rights to a contractor’s proprietary information. result and justification Raytheon shouldn’t have come as a surprise; the Raytheon The Court considered the plain text of DFARS 252.227-7013(a)(15) and found that “technical data” does not, of course, mean all data that a government contractor provides. Like Raytheon, contractors should vigorously protect their rights to maintain the confidentiality of data that is not “scientific or technical in nature.”